'The first memory I have from tennis is watching Rafael Nadal...', says ace

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'The first memory I have from tennis is watching Rafael Nadal...', says ace

Rafael Nadal has become the protagonist of an incredible start to the season. The former world number 1 won the Melbourne ATP 250 and above all the Australian Open, hoisting himself to 21 Grand Slams. Fresh from a foot injury and presented in Australia amidst a thousand uncertainties, the Spanish champion has given life to a memorable ride.

After surviving two authentic battles against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini, the Majorcan reassembled Daniil Medvedev in two sets in the final. Just when the Russian seemed to be one step away from the finish line, Rafa was able to dismantle his certainties and reverse the inertia of the challenge.

Thanks to this triumph, the 35-year-old from Manacor has become the fourth man in history to have conquered all the majors at least twice (along with Novak Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson). The Iberian veteran will return to action in Acapulco, to then compete in the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells and Miami (Rafa has confirmed his presence only in California for the moment).

In an interview with the Tennis Channel, Casper Ruud revealed that he has always been a huge fan of Nadal.

Ruud pays tribute to Rafa Nadal

"The first memory I have from tennis is watching Rafael Nadal on TV, when he won the French Open for the first time," Ruud said.

"I remember thinking, I want to be playing on the big stage one day. That's where the first motivation came." Casper Ruud reached the semifinals at both Masters tournaments as an unseeded player, and defeated four seeded players across the two events.

He eventually lost to Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo and Matteo Berrettini in Madrid. "Looking back on breaking into the top 10, it has been a dream of mine," Ruud said. "[The 2021] Monte-Carlo and Madrid [Masters] were game-changers for me and gave me the confidence to keep going and thinking, 'I can compete with the best players on the biggest stages in the world'

I enjoy playing on clay," Ruud said. "I think my game style suits the surface better because the ball bounces up a little bit more. My spin shots are a bit heavier on the clay and it is tougher for my opponents. Unfortunately, it did not go as well as I hoped in Roland Garros.

That was a very tough and bitter loss. At the same time it gives me the motivation to come back." Despite breaking into the top 10 in the ATP rankings, Ruud's best finish at a Grand Slam has been reaching the fourth round.